If you’re counting calories, please stop, and here’s why …
For the longest time we’ve been told that counting calories is the way to achieve weight loss – it’s all about eating less and moving more right?
Not so much.
I was an obsessive calorie counter for the longest time. I use to log every bite I took, and I even religiously tracked all grams and macros for years.
But I still struggled to lose and maintain weight. And I’ve seen this calories-in-versus-calories-out equation fall short for many others as well. In fact, this broken approach is a big reason why I got into functional medicine – because as a personal trainer back in the day, my clients weren’t getting results even though they were exercising and watching what they ate. This was when I knew there had to be more pieces to the puzzle.
And sure enough, as I dug into how the body really works, it became clear that calorie counting doesn’t support long-term weight loss for a variety of reasons.
So if you’re counting calories, please stop, and here’s some of the biggest reasons why …
Reason #1- Your calorie calculations are all off
A study by Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center found that “our bodies sometimes extract fewer calories than the number listed on the label. Participants in their studies absorbed around a third fewer calories from almonds than the modified Atwater values suggest. For walnuts, the difference was 21 percent.” (Read more on the study here.)
Aside from the body actually extracting fewer calories than what you think you’re consuming, food manufacturers are also allowed to under report calorie values by as much as 20% to pass inspection by the FDA.
So there’s no way to know exactly how many calories you’re consuming or not.
Reason #2- One pound of fat is not 3,500 calories
Forever you’ve been told that in order to lose a pound per week you need to be in a deficit of 500 calories a day, which equals 3,500 calories in a week, and supposedly 3,500 calories equals one pound of fat.
Researcher Zoe Harcombe eloquently debunks this myth in her research where she shows that one pound of fat actually does not equal 3,500 calories, but in fact it can range from 2,843 to 3,752 calories. (See Zoe’s full breakdownhere.)
This paired with reason #1 makes this calorie equation even more messy and less accurate.
Reason #3- We are not a closed system
The weight loss formula of calories-in versus calories-out is said to be based on the first law of thermodynamics- energy is neither destroyed nor created, it’s simply transformed– the energy of a calorie is transformed as you work out and burned off in the form of heat.
Here’s the flaw, this law only applies to closed systems where there are no outlets. And as Sean Croxton says in his book, The Dark Side of Fat Loss, “The human body seems pretty damn open to me. It pees, poops, and sweats into the environment.” (Check out his book here.).
Our body definitely does not abide by the first law of thermodynamics.
Reason #4- All calories are not created equal
When counting calories, you naturally try to conserve what you’ll spend your calories on. This often results in a scarcity mindset; triggering you to choose foods that are less nutrient dense and less satiating, such as 100-calorie pack snacks, in order to feel like you get to eat more and more frequently.
Fats contain 9 calories per gram, while protein and carbs contain 4 calories per gram. At first glance it appears as though carbs and proteins would be the ideal choice when counting calories. However, a higher carb diet spikes blood sugar levels repeatedly throughout the day resulting in more cravings and leading to insulin resistance which causes weight gain; while eating more fat balances blood sugar, cuts cravings and is a better source of fuel for the brain and body.
Once I stopped counting and calculating, I finally started getting real results. Losing and maintaining my weight was no longer a struggle, it came naturally.
Instead of counting calories, I started eating foods that were right for my body so it could function at its potential and be the natural fat-burning machine it was meant to be; this is exactly what I teach my clients to do too.